Before I had my baby, I had a vision in my head of sweet bedtime routine featuring lap-sitting and a stack of books. That may still materialize, but it hasn’t yet; at nine(!) months, our bedtime routine involves a bath, then straight into a clean diaper, onesie, and sleep sack, then nursing till she passes out and I lay her in her crib with her pacifier and lovey. Her attention span, such as it is, does not stretch to one book, let alone several, at the end of the day.
But, you know, I’m a librarian. Just because reading doesn’t fit into our bedtime routine right now doesn’t mean we give up on books! Instead, we read throughout the day. I keep a board book and an “indestructible” in the diaper bag for when we’re on the go; there are two shelves of books in her bedroom; and there are books piled on (and under) the coffee table. There is even a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar on the kitchen table.
This way, we read whenever the opportunity arises, whether she’s content to sit on my lap for a few minutes or wants to turn pages herself (a new skill that made mama very happy). Sometimes I read to her when she’s doing other things – one eye on book, one eye on baby – because she’s hearing the words and the rhythm of the story even if she isn’t watching me turn pages, and that counts for something too.
I’ve also memorized a lot of short books and poems, as well as songs and rhymes, to recite to her on walks or in the car. I highly recommend The Random House Book of Poetry for Children; it’s got long poems and short ones, serious and funny, rhyming and not, old and new. Storytimes, singalongs, or other events for infants and toddlers at your local public library are also a great way to learn (or be reminded of) songs, rhymes, and accompanying fingerplay (e.g. “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”).
Early literacy is about more than just books: talking, singing, and playing are important too, as is writing (though that’s a little bit later…give a baby a crayon and they will most likely just try to eat it). Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy has some great information about early literacy practices. It also helps to practice what you preach: if you want your kid to be a reader, let her see you reading for pleasure yourself.
How do you incorporate books and reading into your daily or weekly routine? How have your expectations around reading to and with babies changed? What didn’t work, and what adjustments have you made? What works well for you now? Please share in the comments!